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wooden bowl full of meaty chili

The Meat

I’ve entered and won a few chili cook-offs in my life. One of the things that always helps put me over the top is using tri-tip. It’s so much sexier than ground beef because you get thick meaty chunks in every bite.

Champion Chili Recipe with Smoked Tri-Tip

I rub it liberally and smoke it to medium rare for about one hour. Then, it gets sliced into bite-size cubes that really impress the judges.

Champion Chili Recipe with Smoked Tri-Tip

My Winning Technique

The one technique that is the secret to champion chili is layering in your seasonings throughout the cook. At each stage, the seasoning will melt into the chili base with different intensity, creating a harmony of spices.

I saute the cubed meat with a few spices. Then, I add more spices when I add the beef stock and other ingredients. Just before serving, another round of spices gets mixed in for that final wow factor.

Alternate cooking methods

Big Green Egg: Light the lump charcoal. Insert the plate setter (feet up). Add the grill rack. Adjust the vents until it burns at 250 degrees. Add cherry wood chips for added flavor.

Pellet Grill: Fill the hopper with your favorite pellets. Set the temp to 250 degrees.

Kettle Grill: Place lump charcoal on one half of the grill. Light and adjust the vents until the temp registers 250. Add cherry wood chips for added flavor. Place the meat on the side without coals.

Gas Grill: Turn the burners on one side of the grill and adjust until the temp registers 250 degrees. Use a pellet tube or smoke box for smoked flavor. Place the meat on the side without coals.

Oven/Stove Top/Slow Cooker: Roast the tri-tip in a 250-degree oven, until it reaches 130 degrees. Chop and sauté the meat in a large pot on the stove top with 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke. Then, finish the recipe on the stove over medium-low heat, or dump everything into a slow cooker and cook for 6-8 hours on low, adding rub at the end.

4.41 from 32 votes

Champion Chili Recipe with Smoked Tri-Tip

Learn the one technique that is the secret to champion chili + instructions for how to prepare this winning recipe on the grill, smoker, oven or slow cooker.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 45 minutes
Servings: 8


  • 2.5 pound tri-tip
  • 5 tbsp Code 3 Spices 5-0 Rub
  • 5 tbsp Code 3 Spices Backdraft Rub
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 28 ounce can san marzano crushed tomatoes
  • 32 ounces canned kidney beans
  • 32 ounces canned navy beans
  • 1 bay leave
  • 2 dried chiles


  • Heat grill to 250 degrees with indirect heat (see alternate cooking methods below).
  • Rub tri-tip with 2 tablespoons 5-0 and 2 tablespoons Backdraft Rub. Smoke to an internal temperature of 130F (about 45 minutes to 1 hour). Rest for 15 minutes.
  • Place the Dutch oven on the grill over indirect heat, and increase the heat to 350 degrees.
  • Cube meat. Add it along with 1 tablespoon of each rub to the Dutch oven. Sauté with the grill lid closed for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add beef stock, tomatoes, beans, bay leaf, chiles and 1 tablespoon more of each rub. Close the grill and simmer for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. (do not put the lid on the pot).
  • Finish by stirring in 1 tablespoon more of each rub, remove the dried chiles and bay leaf, and serve.


Calories: 497kcalCarbohydrates: 51gProtein: 47gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 92mgSodium: 1124mgPotassium: 1512mgFiber: 14gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 380IUVitamin C: 11.5mgCalcium: 209mgIron: 8.9mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Did you try this recipe?Be sure to rate it, leave a comment and save it so you can make it again. Show off your awesome results on social by tagging @girlscangrill

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christie vanover standing against wood wall.

Hey BBQ Family

I’m Christie, the head cook and award-winning competitive pitmaster for Team Girls Can Grill. I have won multiple grand championships and top 10 category finishes. I’m an expert grill reviewer for BBQ Guys, and I have appeared on the Food Network and Ninja Woodfire Grill infomercials. I established this website in 2015 to share my BBQ tips and recipes.

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Recipe Rating


  1. I loved this recipe! I used dried new Mexico Chiles. I as wondering what type of Chiles did you use?

  2. Tri Tip is my wife’s favorite. My 8-year old and 4-year old are picky meat eaters. my 6-year old is less picky. 100% of everyone in the house loved this and the 2 olders had a refill! I served this with homemade cheesy polenta and homemade dinner rolls I made while waiting on the chili :). I am a chili-guy. People rave about my chili when I take to pot-lucks. This is going to be the one i take next time.